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Eddie Erdelatz
Date of birth April 21, 1913(1913-04-21)
Date of death November 10, 1966 (aged 53)
Position(s) Head Coach
Defensive Coordinator
College St. Mary's College
NFL Draft 1936 / Round 3
Career record 6-8-0
Coaching stats DatabaseFootball
Team(s) as a coach/administrator
1960 AFL Oakland Raiders

Eddie Erdelatz (April 21, 1913 – November 10, 1966) was a football player and coach who is best remembered for his nine years as head football coach of the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as holding the distinction of being the first head coach of the American Football League's Oakland Raiders.

Erdelatz's early life was not easy, losing his mother just two weeks after his birth, but he soon found that football would become a focal part of his life. Playing three years at end for St. Mary's College in California beginning in 1932 under the legendary Slip Madigan, Erdelatz showed himself to be a gritty competitor. In one case, a scraped leg that led to infection (and possible amputation) failed to keep him off the field, while his senior season was not stopped, despite a shoulder separation and twisted knee.

In 1936, Erdelatz became St. Mary's line coach under Madigan, leaving for a similar position with the University of San Francisco two years later. By 1940, he found himself back at St. Mary's for yet another two year stint that was followed by service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Having risen to the rank of lieutenant commander in 1945, Erdelatz began the first of three years as a Navy assistant coach at the academy in Annapolis, Maryland. During this time, he helped develop end Dick Duden into an All-American.

Looking to return to California, Erdelatz accepted the defensive coordinator's position with the San Francisco 49ers, then of the All-America Football Conference, in 1948. Two years later, he returned to Navy to take over a football program that was in disarray, having won just four games over the previous five campaigns. The stress of rebuilding the program took its toll that first year wirth Erdelatz, who lost 50 pounds to drop to 195 on the scale.

However, he made a huge impact that season by leading a tremendous upset of arch-rival Army. The Black Knights had entered the game with an 8-0 record, having won 17 straight games and not having lost in 28 contests, while also having defeated Navy five times in the last six games. Those marks were in sharp contrast to Navy's 2-6 record, but an outstanding defensive effort resulted in a 14-2 victory for the Midshipmen.

After two years at Navy, Erdelatz's record stood at 5-12-1, but he would never again have a losing seasons in his final seven seasons and would finish 5-3-1 in his games against Army. In 1954, the team finished 8-2, losing close games to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Erdelatz labeled this squad, "A Team Called Desire" and then went on to shut out the University of Mississippi in the 1955 Sugar Bowl. Three years later, the Midshipmen competed in the Cotton Bowl Classic, where they knocked off Rice University, 20-7. The latter win came one year after the first major conflict of Erdelatz's tenure, when his bid to play in a bowl game was rejected, despite having only one loss on the year.

After the bowl victory over Rice, Erdelatz was courted by other schools and nearly accepted the task of replacing Bear Bryant at Texas A&M University. After the 1958 season, he was also seen as a candidate for the 49ers' head coaching job, but instead, began spring practice the following year at Navy. On April 8, 1959, Erdelatz stunned college football by resigning as head coach of the Midshipmen, citing a number of factors, including the desire for an easier schedule. His superiors were reportedly annoyed with his job seeking and didn't attempt to talk him out of the decision.

After rejecting an assistant coaching position with the National Football League's Washington Redskins, Erdelatz sat out the 1959 season, waiting for the inevitable job offers and worked as a volunteer swim instructor for the handicapped. Indicating interest in the top job at Boston College, Erdelatz was also seen as a candidate for the New York Giants' position, as well as at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley. The latter position was given to Marv Levy, with questions about Erdelatz's departure from Navy given as the reason.

Having rejected the AFL's Los Angeles Chargers the year before, Erdelatz raised eyebrows when he accepted the head coaching position with the new league's Oakland Raiders on February 9, 1960. The team, which was originally scheduled to play in Minnesota, was the last squad to select players, and thus, got limited help from the talent available.

During his first season, the team struggled to a 6-8 record, due primarily to a weak defense, while off the field, Erdelatz battled an ulcer caused by numerous problems with the team's front office. When ownership conflicts kept the team from signing any top draft picks the next season, Erdelatz watched the Raiders outscored 99-0 in their first two games, resulting in his dismissal on September 18, 1961.

After the year had ended, Erdelatz applied for the head coaching job with Army and the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals, but came up empty. He then announced his retirement from football on May 9, 1962, saying he would be working as an executive with a California financial company.

On October 27, 1966, shortly after he had undergone a routine physical, Erdelatz had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his stomach. Unfortunately, the cancer had metastisized and caused his death two weeks later. His funeral was attended by more than three hundred people.

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External links

Preceded by
George Sauer
Navy Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Wayne Hardin


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